Spinal Tap has broken up yet again — at least in court — though a reunion is pretty much guaranteed: A U.S. District Court judge yesterday dropped Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner and Michael McKean from a $400 million lawsuit against Vivendi, leaving Christopher Guest temporarily as a solo act with his cohorts pledging to re-join the legal stage.
“Vivendi thought we would be made to go away,” said Shearer in a statement. “Well, not today, not tomorrow, nor the next day. England’s loudest band will be heard. But today is a good day not just for us, but for all aggrieved creative artists.”
“We’re doing the right thing,” Guest added, “and most importantly, we are setting a precedent for similarly aggrieved artists who can’t afford to do this themselves. We’re sending a message not just to Vivendi, but to the so-called Hollywood accounting cabal as a whole: treat creators from the outset with genuine fairness and respect.”
In the latest verse of the co-creators’ lawsuit against Vivendi for a big share of the profits from the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee refused to outright dismiss the case, but dropped all but Guest for bringing the suit under the names of their respective loan-out companies. The loan-out companies, Gee writes, were obligated to perform services but “not receive rights or other benefits.”
The judge did not prevent the trio from following Guest’s lead by leaving loan-out vehicles out of the squabble. Shearer, Reiner and McKean have 21 days to amend their tactics and, like Guest, sue directly.
“Plaintiffs shall file an amended complaint, or inform the Court and Defendants that they do not intend to amend, within 21 days from the date of this Order,” Gee wrote in the ruling (read it here).
Gee did, however, reject a potentially lucrative fraud claim against the plaintiffs that asserted, in part, that the Defendant “willfully concealed and manipulated years of accountings.” Gee ruled that Team Tap “failed to adequately state a fraud claim” and dismissed the charge “with leave to amend.”
Shearer, or rather his loan-out company Century of Progress Productions, was the first of the creative team to take on the French conglomerate, filing a $125 million lawsuit last year claiming that the he and the other actor-writers had received a shockingly paltry $81 in merchandising and $98 in musical sales from the cult-turned-classic faux-documentary.
Guest and the loan-out companies for McKean and director Reiner soon joined an amended version of the suit, raising the money sought to about $400 million.
At that time, Shearer said the participation of his creative cohorts “will help demonstrate the opaque and misleading conduct at the heart of this case. We’re even louder now.”
Today, Shearer retweeted this: